Chapter

Machiavelli

Martin Wight

in Four Seminal Thinkers in International Theory

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780199273676
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602771 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199273677.003.0001
Machiavelli

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Machiavelli’s popular image is inadequate, for it ignores the idealism of his intense Italian patriotism. He starts with the ‘is’ rather than the ‘ought’ and rejects transcendentalism. He derives, although uncritically, his realism from historical examples found in Livy (The Discourses) as well as from contemporary politics (The Prince). He sees men as bad although their pursuit of power reflects their insecurity. One way to understand Machiavelli is through political irony, which fascinated him. He has a bias towards extremism and ruthlessness and lays emphasis upon virtù (political skill) and fortuna (luck). The political art is to move with the tide of history.

Keywords: fortuna; historical examples; human nature; irony; Livy; power; realism; ruthlessness; virtù

Chapter.  8612 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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